The Tribeca Film Festival is an annual thing that has been bringing cine-nerds from all over the world to lower Manhattan for the past 12 years. It was started by a bunch of people you don't know, and one person you do know—Robert De Niro—to help revitalize New York City in the wake of the major bummer that was Sepaidtember 11th. They play a lot of different movies at Tribeca, most of which you will never see or hear about. We decided to check a few of them out. Here's what we thought:
There are a lot of problems with this movie, but the main one is that it is about Jeff Buckley—a hack who made one shitty album filled with vocal histrionics and session-musician noodling and then thankfully died by way of drowning in the Mississippi River in the late 90s. Why this guy gets so much fanfare is beyond me, and why he deserves a bio-flick less than 20 years after he died is a complete fucking mystery. (Where are the Charles Mingus or Tupac or Kurt Cobain and Robert Johnson bio movies?) The silver lining to this steaming turd of a film is that it spends a few flashbacks dramatizing the life of Jeff Buckley's dad, Tim Buckley, who was a legendary folk musician in the 60s and 70s. Catching some vibes on what it was like to be a rambling, protesting, politically minded folk renegade back in the day was my only respite from Gossip Girl's Penn Badgley bringing to life the obnoxious vocal warblings of Jeff Buckley. Basically, I was born to hate this movie. If you have terrible taste in music, by all means go see it and maybe you'll be lucky enough to have a minor orgasm like the broad who sat in front of me did during on of the movie's too-true portrayals of Buckley's vocal shitshows. Personally I'd rather drown in the Mississippi River than sit through anything else even tangentially connected with this corpse's muzak.
Is Zoe Bell a lesbian? I really hope she’s a lesbian because I am so in love with her. Who is Zoe Bell, you ask? Oh, just a smoking-hot stuntwoman whose kick-ass combat moves leave a trail of sniffling losers in her wake (you saw her in Kill Bill, Xena, and Death Proof). In this subversive women-in-prison horror flick, Zoe plays one of 50 women trapped in an underground prison where they’re forced to fight each other to a bloody pulp in order to win freedom. Needless to say, there’s a healthy dose of pornographic wrestling and eye-gouging, but most importantly... How much do you miss seeing Xena on TV??!!
Kids are scary little buggers. They're small and strangely smell of syrup. The main protagonist in Dark Touch is one of those creepy ankle-biter types, and she’s got violent telekinetic powers too. She’s supremely fucked up considering she was sexually abused, and she kills her immediate family by bludgeoning them to death with the furniture in the first few minutes of the film. On the surface, the movie is kind of like Carrie meets I Spit on Your Grave, starring Wednesday from the Addams Family. I wanted to like this movie because it seems noble to try and tackle deep issues like child abuse through the tropes of horror flicks. But maybe putting the horror genre in the hands of a director who admittedly doesn’t even like it, is not the best way to wade into the complicated issues that arise when adults play with a little kid's genitals.
Prescription pills? Check. Obese hicks with incomprehensible Southern drawls? Double check! This documentary about a small town in Bumfuck, USA, (OK, West Virginia) that falls victim to an Oxycontin plague was surely destined for glory. Too bad it was just scene after scene of the same Hot Topic teens complaining about how easy it is to “score,” or sad-eyed farmers waxing nostalgic about the good ol' days. Actually, it’s probably my fault. The Xanax and weed I ingested while watching this movie made me too stupid to understand it. Oh, the irony.
Although all the documentaries have been excellent, a few of the narrative films I've seen at Tribeca sucked bloody AIDS dick. Harmony Lessons, however, was a major exception. It's so good and thoughtful, I'm still processing it and thinking about it days later. Ultimately, I think the film is about violence and how we use it on the the things around us from the food we eat to our friends. It opens with 13-year-old Aslan, a Kazakhstan science wiz who lives with his grandma, brutally and beautifully skinning and gutting a lamb. We follow Aslan as he tortures roaches in peculiar science experiments in his bedroom, and gets bullied for being a nerd at school by a vicious gang of kids who are racketeering their fellow students for real adult gangsters. After being brutalized mercilessly by the gang's leader, Aslan devises a plan for ultimate revenge. It's a dark film that leaves you questioning when it's right to kill and when it's time to forgive. Because of its strange ability to capture the beauties and horrors of growing up in a world steeped in aggression and wonder, it's a movie I plan on watching again. Look out for an interview with the director, Emir Baigazin, here on VICE.com sometime soon.
This movie is an amalgamation of every tired horror trope, done through the ultrapredictable first-person handheld-camera perspective popularized by The Blair Witch Project and pornos—so obviously I loved it. They use a girl exploring a missing person’s collection of VHS snuff films to jump through different vignettes about standard shit like alien abduction and flesh-eating zombies. But the kicker is the vignette about a suicidal cult, which culminates in the best “monster bursting out of an impregnated woman’s stomach” scene I’ve seen since Alien. Is it gross if that sort of thing gives me a chubby?
Photo curtesy of Tribeca Film Festival
Imagine my delight when midway through this pointless, cheesy story of two guys from Montreal selling Christmas trees in Brooklyn, I saw a reflection of MY OWN FACE on the screen! It was actually just Paul Giamatti’s “I fucking hate this movie so fuck you, fuck face” face, but close enough. Getting to see Pauly G’s pissed-off glare over and over again was the only thing that stopped me from giving the dude next to me a “boredom beej” (you know, when you suck dick out of sheer ennui). Although I definitely started leaning toward his crotch every time “Jingle Bells (The Smooth Jazz Remix)" came on. I’m also not sure why the director (whose last movie was the “critically acclaimed” Junebug) thought it’d be a good idea to put two middle-aged men in a Greenpoint lot, and make them bicker in circles over a 50-year-old Kristen Stewart. But I’m pretty sure it boils down to one thing: Canadians ruin everything.
When I was younger, I had dreams of being a ball player. But after watching this nightmare scenario of a film, which tells the story of 90s high school prodigy Lenny Cooke’s downward spiral from being the highest-ranked basketball player in the nation to becoming an obese loser sleeping on his girlfriend's couch—I’m super glad I stuck with all my no-pussy-getting nerd shit. A lot of people will probably play this film for young athletes to warn them about the pitfalls of experiencing sports superstardom at an early age. But they should play this for all the guys who get beat up by jocks. Hopefully whoever is bullying your ass today will be tomorrow’s Lenny Cooke.
Taboor takes place in Iran in the future, even though it looks disappointingly like it is happening right now. The main dude is an exterminator who rocks a Santa beard and wears a Pop-Tart wrapper to protect himself from the fucked-up future sun's dangerous radiation that is slowly killing him from the inside out. I was hoping to see the dude get cooked at the end of the film like a Peep in a microwave, but it never happened. The only face-melting I got out of this flick was my own from the fat dude passing gas in the seat in front of me. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that kept me awake through this beautifully shot but painfully boring movie about an Iranian guy in a Diddy suit.
In Before Midnight, the lovebirds (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) from Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset have to deal with new problems, like having kids and being constantly pissed off because they’re in a full-on relationship. There’s still a lot of talking, walking, joking, bickering, and bullshitting in this one, and it actually seems more sincere than the first two films—probably because the characters have two decades of history behind them. There’s even a 13.5-minute scene of the couple in their car, and it’s awesome. Don’t ask me how. But if they do another one of these movies nine years from now, my only request is that they better have a sex scene. Nothing would be hotter than seeing the romantic geriatrics gum on each other one last time.
Gore Vidal is a writer I should’ve known more about before I saw this bio-doc. He’s one of the earliest American novelists to explore homo-boning, he was a thorn in the dick of every right winger with his biting social commentary on everything from the war in Vietnam to civil rights, and he famously clowned William B. Fuckley, Jr. in a historic intellectual beat down way back in the day. This film does a flawless job of showcasing what made Gore so vital to our political discourse over the past 50-plus years. The movie got me so stoked, I am about about to buy, like, three of Gore's books right now just so I can soak up more of his iconoclastic queer swag.
Man, I really wanted to like this dystopic sci-fi thriller. If only because actress Caity Lotz spends half of the movie as a naked cyborg killing machine. Basically, the film is a rehash of themes delved into by any number of nerd flicks concerned with technology getting so advanced, it gains a will to defy its creator and preserve itself—2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Blade Runner, etc... I’m not going to give you a plot rundown, because it’s pretty predictable and that’s the major flaw of this film. It never presents a new perspective on the age-old question of what it means when the microwaves of the world transform into Hal 9000s. Instead, we get some eye candy, some middle-of-the-road special effects, and a surprisingly emotive performance from Caity as “the Machine.” But for a flick that is all about the future, it’s a bummer its muddling script wasn’t more forward-looking.
Pretty simple concept here: a cartoon about a bird that’s afraid to fly and has to decide whether it should: A) suck it up and head south for the winter, or B) chill at home and risk getting too “chill.” And yet, like most animated movies with an adult sense of humor (Shrek, Shrek II, Shrek III, Shrek Forever), the little details are what made this adorable/great—like how cutely the tiny yarn ball on the bird’s beanie bobbs around in the wind, or the adorable “squelch” sound it makes when it poops. Basically, watching this animated short is like peaking in on a very good ketamine trip. Everything is hypersaturated, full of serotonin, and the only way you can react to the world is through making guttural noises of pleasure.
The festival is happening as we speak, so we'll be updating this page with more reviews as the week progresses. Stay tuned, dweebs.
For more of VICE's fine criticism, check these out:
Topics: V/H/S 2, ALMOST CHRISTMAS, LENNY COOKE, TABOOR, Before Midnight, GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA, THE MACHINE, FEAR OF FLYING, Jeff Buckley, GREETINGS FROM TIM BUCKLEY, RAZE, DARK TOUCH, OXYANA, HARMONY LESSONS